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Whistleblower awarded $250,000 for helping U.S. Coast Guard catch polluter

A Japanese shipper pleaded guilty Friday for illegal dumping oil residue and bilge water from a huge cargo vessel into the ocean.

In January 2014, a crewman aboard the 600-foot long M/V Selene Leader, then operated by Hachiuma Steamship Co., LTD, took video of the offenses and turned the evidence over to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Hachiuma Steamship to pay $1.8 million for violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. She also placed Hachiuma on probation for three years and required it to develop an environmental compliance program.

Of the $1.8 million penalty, $450,000 will be allotted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects benefiting the Chesapeake Bay. And $250,000 will go to the whistleblower, who hasn’t been named.

Earlier in the case, two crewmen from the M/V Selene Leader pleaded guilty for their role in dumping the oily waste.

Noly Torato Vidad, 47, and Ireneo Tomo Tuale, 63, both of the Philippines, are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Baltimore on February 20 and March 3, respectively.  Vidad was the chief engineer on board the vessel and Tuale was the first engineer.

The M/V Selene Leader transported vehicles between global ports, including the Port of Baltimore. The vessel was operated by Hachiuma Steamship at the time the offenses occurred.

Hachiuma Steamship admitted in its plea agreement that in January 2014, engine room crew members supervised by Vidad and Tuale illegally bypassed pollution control equipment intended to prevent the discharge of oily water into the ocean.

“Before such waste can be discharged into the sea,” the DOJ said, “the law requires that it must first pass through an oil water separator, and the operation must be recorded in the vessel’s oil record book for inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.”

The M/V Selene Leader arrived in Baltimore on January 29, 2014 with an oil record book that failed to include entries reflecting the discharge of oily water and oily waste directly into the ocean. The Coast Guard boarded the ship for inspection the next day.

During the inspection, Vidad, the chief engineer, tried to hide the illegal discharges. He falsified the oil record book, destroyed documents, and lied to Coast Guard investigators, the DOJ said. He also directed subordinate crew members to lie to the Coast Guard.

The DOJ’s January 30, 2015 release is here.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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